Death in the afternoon

My body is falling apart, he said
He shaved meticulously
He forgot about his eyes and ears
He smelled good

Bloody certificates
another barrier to impetuous action
in case of lovelorn despair, for example
ten minutes before noon

A sparkling, sunny day in late spring
We ate more cherries
Even he tasted one or two
and the angels looked quite grateful

No one talked about the next act
No one talked very much at all
The angels went for a walk around the garden
We stayed where we were, savouring the lovely day

Do you know what this is?
Do you know what will happen if you drink it?
Do you want me to give it to you?
Yes, I do. I will die.

His eyes shut, quietly
It’s over now
Goodbye then
I returned to the garden.

(From ‘I held his hand as he drank the fatal dose’: the day my husband chose to die. Submitted by Grace Andreacchi)

What They Don’t Tell You

My mum doesn’t know who I am.
Sometimes I’m her sister.
Sometimes I’m her dead mother.
Once I was Shirley Bassey,
which made for an interesting evening.

I’d assumed we’d have lots of time
to get to know each other properly.
I was wrong. Instead of visiting coffee shops,
we ended up visiting the memory clinic.
It’s like going home with a newborn baby,
but with less support and no balloons.

They don’t tell you that she’ll hit you
as you coax her into the bath.
Neither do they tell you what nappies to buy
when she becomes incontinent,
how to persuade her to wear one
or stop her taking it off
and stashing it in a pillow case.

They don’t tell you what to do
when she thinks that the small boy
you pass on your walk is her grandson,
and tries to talk to him. Nobody tells you
how to placate the angry parents.

They don’t tell you that she’s never
going to phone you again, see you get married,
be a grandmother to your kids.
Nobody tells you how to channel the anger
you feel that your fellow thirtysomethings’ lives
now involve marriage, mortgages and children,
and yours revolves around a confused old lady
who doesn’t know who you are.
They’ve chosen their responsibilities;
you’d give anything not to have yours.

They don’t tell you that you’ll spend hours
trying to feed her a spoonful of hospital jelly
even though she’s pretty much given up on eating,
because you can’t just watch her starve.

It doesn’t matter how distraught you are
that she’s wasting away before your eyes,
or how much it upsets you to agree
to the doctor’s request for a DNR order;
this disease is relentless .

I’m still not sure how to feel about it
when there’s nothing tangible to mourn.
“Waking grief” someone called it.
When the person you knew is gone, but not gone.
But it’s not. It’s a waking, sleeping,
cloud of despair. But then nobody tells you
how to grieve either, do they?

Especially when there’s no funeral to go to.

(From What they don’t tell you about dementia. Submitted by Angi Holden)

Jamdani Weavers

A bead of sweat rolls down my face;
I am struck by the silence. The air
is hushed and filled with concentration.

On the banks of the Lakshya
master weavers sit in pairs, barely breaking
sweat at their bamboo looms.
The men are shirtless. The women rest
their arms on cheap white cotton,
protecting the delicate muslin.

Hands interlace silky gold thread
into sheer cloth the colour of oxblood.

Around us turquoise, yellow and white billows
in the breeze that – like a cool blessing –
comes off the river through latticed bamboo walls.

Motifs – jasmine, marigolds, peacock feathers –
neither embroidered nor printed,
are painstakingly sewn by hand.

Children of the loom, taught by their fathers:
strong backs and magic fingers. Dedication.

(From The delicate material that takes months to weave by hand. Submitted by Angi Holden)

Annoyance

Just when we thought some
of the old annoyances
of the 20th century
had died out, they come
roaring back
new,
improved,
upgraded,
and intensified like the government

dug up their corpses
and stuffed them with hydraulics
and, like, RAM sticks
and shit, and turned
them into deadly cybernetic warriors.
They didn’t die.
They were waiting.
They were adapting.
They. Were. Evolving.

They’ve returned,
fortified by modern technology,
designed to annoy us anywhere,
everywhere,
and at the convenience of
the person who wants to annoy us.

(From 4 Obnoxious Behaviors The Modern World Made Worse. Submitted by Kenn Merchant)

Absent Father

I find myself here with a baby with delicate bones,
fine features and blue eyes, who – especially asleep,
when she’s at her most beautiful – looks exactly like you.
The fine movements of the lips, the almond-shaped eyes,
the one dimple on her right cheek.
I still find this resemblance strangely, unsettlingly painful.

I imagine you waking up beside that other woman,
whoever she might be; she will never find out
about this one aspect of your life.
I find it hard to picture you; I don’t know your apartment,
but I imagine you waking up in it, flat on your back,
elbow tucked beneath your head, thinking of your baby,
somewhere, with someone else, hundreds of miles away.

For a few minutes every once in a while,
more rarely each year,
and too briefly.

Taken from A letter to…my baby’s absent father in The Guardian, 7th June 2014. Submitted by Angi Holden.

Spring Drawings

I had had a very minor stroke
and the first drawing afterwards
took me two days to do
(the days are a lot shorter in November).

The stroke only manifested itself in my speech.
I found I couldn’t finish sentences, and although
it came back after about a month
I find now I talk a lot less.

But it did not affect my drawing.
I think it even made me concentrate more.
I thought, well I’m OK so long as I can draw,
I don’t really need to say much any more;

I thought,
I’ve said enough already.

Taken from an article by David Hockney about his Spring drawing series, published in the Guardian, 18th April 2014. Submitted by Angi Holden.

The Dilemma

Picture this.
A man spends a
long bus journey
groaning over a very full bladder.
The bus finally pulls into a station
for a brief stop
and the guy rushes out,
leaving his bag on board.

But there’s a problem:
all the toilets are closed.
He runs around,
one muscle-twitch
away from humiliation,
looking for someone to open them.

Then, out of the corner of his eye,
he sees the bus pulling away,
with his possessions.

It’s a dilemma worthy
(well, almost)
of Hamlet:
to pee or not to pee?

Taken from ‘Stage Struck: Frankly, my dear, you gotta make ’em give a damn‘ in The Irish Times, 3 April 2014. Submitted by Taidgh Lynch.

A City on the Edge

St. John’s is
gnawing on my bones.
You can’t take it in
with tiny sips; you have
to choke it back, you have
to swig it down. You have
to wheeze about and stagger.

In St. John’s,
the houses tumble uphill
if such a thing is possible
and the entire place-
the streets, the squares, the alleyways-
seems to have been laid out
without the aid of a ruler
(and possibly while
under the influence of screech).
From Hill O’Chips to Mile Zero,
from Water Street to the colourful homes
lined up on Jellybean Row:
the city is full of angles that
don’t
quite
add
up.

St. John’s is, as the Irish say,
“a great place to get lost in.”
Wander around long enough,
though, and you will
eventually end up
at the harbour
as surely as water flows downhill.

Great ships lie tethered, bleeding
rust into the bay,
and rising and falling
on s l o w exhalations
of water. From the pier,
the bay looks like a landlocked lake,
the Narrows sealed off by
perspective and distance.
The very air
tastes of
salt.

I am homesick for St. John’s,
and it isn’t even my home.
I miss the city and I think of it often,
the way one wonders about
a boozy uncle who comes crashing
into your life every couple of years
and then charges off,
leaving a trail of tall tales
and laughter in his wake.

It is a good city, this fishing village
on the eastern edge of
North America.

It gnaws on you.

From The City on a Rock, Will Ferguson, Macleans.ca, 21 July 2003. Submitted by Megan.

Melody of the soul

Across a nation long captivated
By Western classical music,
People reacted with remorse, outrage
And even the rare threat of a lawsuit
After Mr. Samuragochi’s revelations
That he had hired a ghostwriter since the 1990s
To compose most of his music.

The anger turned to disbelief
When the ghostwriter himself
Came forward to accuse Mr. Samuragochi
Of faking his deafness,
Apparently to win public sympathy
And shape the Beethoven persona.

The scandal has brought
An abrupt fall from grace
For Mr. Samuragochi,
A man who looked the part
Of a modern-day composer
With his long hair,
Stylish dark suits
And ever-present sunglasses.

Taken from the New York Times article, In Japan, a Beloved Deaf Composer Appears to Be None of the Above, 7 February 2014. Submitted by Mark Dzula.